Review Of 2017 (PT III) : Stellies’ Star Shines Brightly


Doing the hard yards!  Stellenberg tighthead Nicko Laubscher (jade jersey) surges forward despite 
the attention of several Muir opponents during the northern suburbs side’s 40-10 win at the 
2017 Cape Schools Festival, held at Rondebosch in July. (Photo: Shaun Roy Photography)

If you look at the 2017 Team Stats on this site, you will find Stellenberg, Brackenfell, DF Malan and Tygerberg are huddled cosily in the top eleven performers for 2017.

Don’t let this fool you; never has the difference between the literal (where WP Schools Rugby has put them) and figurative (the company in which they belong) meanings of the expression “in the same league” been more perfectly illustrated than by reference to the records of these four teams.

The Jade Brigade’s efforts to improve their status on as many fronts as possible have been impressive.

Their 14-1-4 season did not start particularly auspiciously.  After beating Oudtshoorn 38-0 in a severely shortened match, they lost 19-31 at Paarl Gym and 33-36 to Waterkloof at the North-South event, only to bounce back to beat Menlopark 33-12. 

Despite surrendering a 28-3 lead at Bishops to lose 28-29, they picked themselves up to draw 24-24 with EG Jansen and beat HTS Middelburg 31-21 at Wildeklawer.  Between that first weekend in May and the end of the season, only Boland Landbou could lower their colours, and then only 35-34. 

Outeniqua proved a tough nut, but they too cracked, 43-38, and Divan Batt’s boys sailed blissfully past all-comers, even downing Muir (40-10) and Dale (22-7) at Cape Schools Week, these last two achieved without their provincial representatives.

Speaking of which, a haul of six caps – right wing Angelo Davids, hooker Joshua Muller and lock Janko Swanepoel (Craven Week); full-back Corné van Romburgh, flyhalf Nivan Petersen and scrumhalf Jacques van Biljon (Academy Week) – is extraordinary for a second-tier side.

But, back to their victory trail.  Premier A Rondebosch (33-21) and Wynberg (47-5), Boland powerhouse HTS Drostdy (24-12), De Kuilen (93-5), Bellville (21-13), Brackenfell (41-11), Tygerberg (96-20) of the Premier B and derby foes Durbanville (47-6) were all sent packing.

The side’s one-for-all ethic did not prevent several players from rising above the rest.  Captain Erik Vermeulen’s job was made much easier by the set-phase work of his second-row partner Swanepoel, Johann van der Merwe’s indefatigable efforts in the loose and van Romburgh’s distribution skills after he was moved to flyhalf.

Three kickers did service, centre Leeuwner van der Merwe’s 104 points including twelve tries, full-back Ryan Brown chipping in with 98 and young pivot Petersen notching 87, while the leading contributors to their 111 tries were Davids (17), van Biljon (12) and no.8 André Hanekom and left wing Roché Malan (10 apiece).

Were they full value for the money?  You bet! 

Brackenfell (14-0-4) were in with a sniff all the way up to their early-August defeat at Stellenberg, their fourteen four-try bonus points falling just short of the latter’s fifteen, but, to be honest, they will admit that their roster did not feature sides approaching the quality faced by the Jade Brigade.

An early hiccup against Outeniqua (15-24) and a nervous win over Oudtshoorn (24-21) were followed by healthy victories over Pietersburg (33-22) and Pionier (67-12).  Hottentots Holland was dispatched 71-7 before the Brakke headed for the Oudtshoorn weekend, where they made many people sit up and take notice with a 59-17 thrashing of Ben Vorster and an agonisingly close 29-31 setback against Menlopark. 

The second tier rivals De Kuilen (45-8) and Durbanville (84-17) were dealt with away from home before they were brought back to earth with a bump by SACS (12-26), after which two more Premier B rivals, Bellville (16-11) and DF Malan (30-5) were seen off.

A 79-5 canter at home to Milnerton ended the term perfectly, but the next one started with two hard-fought away victories against Hermanus (28-21) and Hugenote (33-31).

The Brakke’s balloon was cruelly punctured when Stellenberg beat them 41-11, but they quickly put the disappointment behind them, thrashing HTS Bellville 84-10 and dominating the interschools clash against Tygerberg 58-0 away from home.

Four players were chosen for the WP Under 18 teams: flyhalf Quan Eymann for the flagship Craven Week side; full-back Raven Smith, wing Marcqiewn Titus and lock Jaen-Louis de Lange for the Academy Week squad.

The side’s remarkable 121 tries points to a backline-oriented game-plan, so it will come as no surprise that the leading try-scorers were Eymann (13), centre Jade-Lee Andreas (12), Titus (10), Smith, right wing Justin Greeff and utility back Waylin Booysen (8 each).

This, however, would be to overlook the massive efforts of de Lange and hooker Jean-Luke Human (8 each), inspirational captain and no.8 Sean-D van Binsbergen – so inexplicably neglected by the provincial selectors – and massive tighthead Ronan Witten (7 each).

This was a side that performed at its peak far more often than not, earning respect from all the opponents with whom they crossed swords.

Surprise package DF Malan (14-0-3) rose to dizzy heights in this year’s Team Stats table, thanks largely to their having a young squad, many of whom will be available again in 2018, for which reason coach Bertus Enslin opted for a slightly less-demanding programme

The plan came together perfectly as the Pumas lost their first game, at home to high-tempo Bolanders Charlie Hofmeyr (15-17), their final game, the Interschools against Bellville (15-20) and only one game (5-30, to Brackenfell) slap in the middle!

The Southern Cape Sports Tours event in George saw them beat Witteberg (23-19), George (48-3) and Brandwag of Springs (27-7).

After a successful visit to Parel Vallei (17-11), they came out on top in both fixtures at the Wynberg Festival, beating Upington 17-10 and Swartland 24-20.

Their other victories may have been at the expense of rather average opponents (30-5 vs Monument Park, 43-5 vs De Kuilen, Strand 17-7, HTS Bellville 24-7 – all of these Premier B teams – 19-18 vs Oudtshoorn, 28-7 vs Hugenote, 29-12 vs Hottentots Holland and 41-9 vs Kasselsvlei), but one needs to bear in mind that Witteberg won this year’s Bethlehem derby against Voortrekker and both Swartland and Hugenote are well respected in the Boland.

Much of their success can be put down to the diminutive but ultra-crafty flyhalf Heinrich van der Watt (95 points, which included three dropped goals), the twelve tries of full-back Tasriq Mynhardt and the nine touched down by captain and hooker Daniël Wesson.

This is going to be a side worth watching next year; local schoolboy rugby supporters have been waiting too long for a DF revival!

While, like DF Malan, Tygerberg (15-1-5) kept a lower profile than long-term supporters might have expected of them, this didn’t stop them from putting in several sterling performances, first notice of which was served at TSRF 2017 where they beat Worcester Gym (30-8), Humansdorp Secondary (19-8) and Pietersburg (32-8).

Several second division rivals felt the Tygers’ wrath as they coasted home against the likes of Monument Park (56-10), HTS Bellville (34-3), Durbanville (41-24) and De Kuilen (26-5). 

The disappointment of losing 14-19 to Charlie Hofmeyr at the Swartland Festival was balanced two days later by a comfortable 38-14 win over Vredenburg at Swartland.

However, the apparent pointlessness of fixtures against Bellville South (8-7), Hamlets (53-19) and Tygerberg RFC (19-19) was underlined when it came to the more testing ones, all of which they lost (vs Rondebosch 12-40, HTS Drostdy 24-47, Stellenberg 26-90 and Brackenfell 0-58).

Full-back Alessandro Dirk weighed in with 128 points (nine tries), while inside centre Nico van der Westhuizen (15 tries) and no.8 Edja de Meyer, utility back John-Henry Pienaar and flank and flank and captain Tiaan de Witt (eight tries each) also helped the cause.

While scrumhalf and WP Academy Week cap Thandile Hoyi had a young backline with which to work, de Witt didn’t have the usual heavyweight pack around him either, although tighthead Rayden Phillips and de Meyer certainly did their reputations no harm.

Quite far down the list comes Bellville (12-0-7), who started reasonably enough with wins over Milnerton (38-21), Lichtenburg (12-7), Montagu (an impressive 53-10) and Strand (23-14), with a 21-31 setback against Potch Gym sandwiched in between.

Their rhythm was broken by defeats at the hands of SACS (12-49), KES (8-16), Boland Landbou (15-64) and Rondebosch (a nailbiting 34-39) and they never really regained it as they beat Worcester Gym (30-16) and lost to Brackenfell (11-16).

A good mid-season run of victories against Swartland (45-21), Durbanville (13-7) and overseas tourists Campbell College and Sullivan Upper (both 31-12) re-established some momentum and they finished on a high, winning their last three games, vs De Kuilen (47-7), Tygerberg RFC 96-0 and neighbours DF Malan (20-15), this after an honourable 13-21 defeat against Stellenberg.

The selection of the lock who thinks he is a centre, Xavier Haupt (ten tries), for the WP Academy Week side was nowhere near as surprising as the omission of dependable servant, inside centre Dan Aspeling, whose 217 points included sixteen tries, a haul only surpassed by fellow midfielder Xavier Adams on seventeen.

And this was no flash in the pan, as this multi-talented sportsman – a formidable shot-put and discus athlete – also racked up 192 points (twelve tries) in 2016.

In hindsight, the WP selectors’ stupidity was emphasised by some rank poor defensive showings at St Stithian’s, an area in which Aspeling excels.

Strand (8-0-9) had a difficult year, in which they only looked convincing against less prominent schools such as Labori (36-5), Oosterlig (36-14), Milnerton (35-11) and HTS Bellville (29-3), and could only one manage two away wins, against De Kuilen (22-7) and Helderberg neighbours Hottentots Holland, (43-17).

That said, they were only soundly thrashed on one occasion, 55-8 by a SACS side that promptly went on the wane straight afterwards.

Flyhalf JJ Stover converted 28 tries on his way to a total of 78 points, but only wings Tonie Potgieter (nine) and Cole Arnoldus and scrumhalf Hugan Engelbrecht (six tries each) came close to being scoresheet regulars.

Nothing could have prepared anyone for the sudden meltdown experienced by Durbanville (8-0-11).  After all, they had won all but one of their first six matches, beating Swartland (36-10), Oosterlig (34-10), Monument Park (39-17), Upington (21-18) and Lydenburg (55-22) and their sole defeat had been a close one, 30-33 to Welkom Gym.

May started inauspiciously, as they lost to 17-41 to Windhoek High, but they did see off Hugenote 31-22 before the start of a calamitous run of defeats, which saw Brackenfell (84-17), Bishops (72-14), Tygerberg (41-24) and SACS (100-0), Rondebosch (58-10) and derby opponents Stellenberg (47-6) wreak havoc, all on the Durbies’ home patch, and Outeniqua (88-17) dish out an extra dose in George !

The problem appears to have been among the forwards, where adequate front-row resources seemed hard to come by.  Scrumhalf Mondrey Titus, captain and utility back Jean Aucamp, full-back John Mentoor and rising star, outside centre Juanré de Klerk, gave the backline a  stable look, but they were largely left to cope with an overwhelming amount of damage control.

De Klerk gave notice of his talent with 97 points (11 tries), Aucamp added 86 (14 tries), Mentoor crossed opponents’ lines twelve times and Titus helped with the kicking duties, ending with 51 points, but that was basically it.

The good news is that their age-group sides have been setting the Peninsula on fire!

HTS Bellville (5-1-11) fell away dramatically after early successes against Fairbairn College (58-5) and Langenhoven High (28-12), although they did show a brief resurgence to beat Hottentots Holland (30-19) and Monument Park (27-0) and recouped well enough to beat Labori (20-7) four days after being drubbed 84-10 by Brackenfell.

Neither De Kuilen (3-0-12) and Monument Park (2-0-11) had seasons they’d want to remember, the former’s joy coming with victories over HTS Bellville (22-20) in April and Monument Park (22-5) and Worcester Gym (22-20) in the last weeks of the campaign, the latter’s restricted to wins over Vredendal (16-7) and Dirkie Uys (24-17), both coming before the end of the first week in April.

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